The beginning of a new year is traditionally a time for reflection, for thinking about the year just gone, and planning for the new year ahead. Many people also make new year’s resolutions as part of that process. For many music teachers, September is often considered the new year in academic terms, but nevertheless, January offers a valuable opportunity to pause and reflect. In this blog post, I’m going to be sharing five things you can do, all of which offer a chance for a bit of a January reset so that you can move forward with confidence in the year ahead.
1. Revisit your teaching philosophy
What is your teaching philosophy?
I know quite a few teachers who’ve explored this, and I’m always amazed by the hugely differing philosophies produced. I think this is a good thing; we are all different, and we all have a very differing mix of students.
If you haven’t yet explored your teaching philosophy, then I’d encourage you to do so. What matters to you as a teacher? What are those things which underpin your whole approaching to instrumental teaching? Here’s a little bit of my teaching philosophy:
“My mission is to create and facilitate an environment where you have the opportunity to grow and experience all that music offers, no matter where you are on that journey, and no matter how you engage with music”
What do you think are some of the key points in this statement which underpin my approach to teaching? How do they match or challenge yours?
2. Get back to basics
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the teaching resources out there – books, apps, websites – there’s a never-ending variety of things we could use in our teaching. Sometimes though, it can be beneficial to just get back to basics. Is a complicated app which needs to be set up each lesson the best way to teach something which could be accomplished in seconds on a piece of paper?
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Now, don’t get me a wrong, there’s always a place for new books and resources, and indeed, there’s always a huge amount of potential offered by technological advances. They can, however, get in the way of the basic thrust of what we’re trying to do. Maybe think about how your teaching philosophy aligns with the books, teaching materials and resources you currently use? We are all guilty of overcomplicating the basics!
3. Review your teaching resources
I’m guilty of using the same resources over and over again. The same books come out of the shelves on repeat.
I’m also guilty of acquiring new books and resources, using them once, and then putting them away and forgetting about them.
Plus, I know I’m also guilty of owning quite a lot of books and resources I never use!
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, January is a great time to review which resources you’re using. Are there some which might benefit from a break? Perhaps there are some you’ve been waiting to use and for which you need to make space? Reviewing what you use needn’t be a time-consuming task, but it’s a great way to refresh your teaching for a new term and a new year.
4. Nurture your own playing or singing
I think this is a really important point, but often overlooked. As instrumental teachers, we spend much of our time teaching others, but we didn’t start as teachers; we started as learners and players. I believe that just because we’re now teachers, it doesn’t mean we’re no longer learners or players.
I’ve been having flute lessons myself for nearly six years, and I cannot tell you what a hugely positive impact they’ve had on me. They don’t just impact my flute playing and flute teaching, but my whole outlook on and experience of music. They alone have rekindled a desire to simply pick up the instrument and play. As teachers, we should never lose that desire. If you feel you have, then make this next year the time when you rekindle that child-like love for playing and learning the instrument(s) you teach. You never lose it, but it needs to be nurtured.
You can read more about the impact having lessons myself has had on my teaching and playing in this blog post. You can also read more about nurturing and developing your own music-making in this blog post.
5. Look after yourself
This is a big one for me, and it’s one which is so often overlooked. It’s not just music teachers who are prone to putting themselves last, it’s something which affects many people who are self-employed.
At the start of a new year, it’s a good time to think about your own health, mental health and well-being. How will you support these in the coming year? They should be top of your list.
Like every other year, there’ll be challenges along the way. All of those three things will most likely be challenged this year, and whilst, as teachers, we’re pretty resilient, make sure your teaching doesn’t push everything else to the sidelines. Our students are important, but we are only useful to them if we have supported our own health and wellbeing first.
What are some of your aims, goals and aspirations for your teaching in the year ahead? Why not let me know on social media; links below.
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